Short Research Paper: Do-It-Yourself Art History
Produce a Research Paper:
Formulate a specific question you would like to answer about a particular work in the art and architectural history of the past six hundred years from anywhere in the world. You could choose a work of art in a Hong Kong museum, public art in the city, or just a work that is to your liking. A good question will have a concrete answer and will not involve subjective notions: the relative “good or bad” qualities of a work are not of interest here, only facts and historical narrative.
Research your topic thoroughly, seeking out many and varied points of view. You should familiarize yourself with various approaches to the topic, and be able to discuss them. Start researching soon, as you may run into questions, problems or a lack of sources, so you may need to consult the instructor for guidance.
When you have assembled your data and ideas, write a page paper of at least five pages, complete with footnotes or endnotes (following Chicago/Turabian format) for all information that is not your original thought or common knowledge. This should be a concise but comprehensive treatment of your chosen topic. It should revolve around the question you posed, which is the thesis (although you can feel free to use either statement or question form). The paper should be clearly organized with a thesis statement in the introductory paragraph and a conclusion that sums up the findings of your research.
Although you might not find the exact answer to the question you posed at the beginning, you should have come to a conclusion through your research of how the issue might further be investigated, or whose approach to your topic was potentially the most informative. Make sure you make clear the results of your research in your conclusion.
You should generally use at least four, and depending on your topic maybe as many as ten or more, sources in your research (books or major scholarly articles—textbooks are not acceptable, and websites are not allowed except with permission of the instructor and then generally on contemporary topics only). If you have a particularly good idea for which you have fewer resources, ask permission of the instructor. You are encouraged to bring in sources from outside the field of art history proper, where applicable (i.e. religious studies texts for a topic in Buddhist art, social histories for Dutch genre scenes, etc…).
The grading of the papers will be broken down as follows: clarity 25%, organization 25%, thoroughness of research 25%, and creativity and thoughtfulness of conclusion 25%.
Penalties for not following instructions:
Does not meet the page minimum: dropped a letter grade.
Fonts and/or margins are oversized in order to meet page minimum: dropped five points.
Illustrations are within the text rather than appended to the end: dropped a letter grade.
Discussion does not focus on a specific work: dropped a letter grade.
Paper lacks a specific question or thesis: dropped a letter grade.
Citations are present but done incorrectly: dropped five points.
Academic websites are used w/o instructor’s permission: dropped five points.
Non-academic websites are used: dropped two letter grades.
Work is not within specified time period: dropped five points.
Citations are present but bibliography is not: dropped five points.
Plagiary: automatic zero.
Citations are not present, which is plagiary: automatic zero.
Reuse of previously submitted material: automatic zero.
Excessive redundancy/use of “filler”: points subtracted from thoroughness score.
If you have doubts about the proper use of citations, please consult the library’s website, attend the librarian’s extra help sessions, and/or pay the writer’s studio a visit (a highly recommended practice anyway). Please note since this is an art history paper, parenthetical citations (such as in MLA) are not to be used.
Suggested ways to find sources:
www.jstor.org : This is a full text article database that will contain many of the most important journals for art history.
Rules of good formal nonfiction writing:
1) Avoid use of first and second person pronouns (I, you, we, us).
2) Avoid passive voice.
3) Avoid redundancies, both in word use and content.
4) Be sure of the meaning of a word before making use of it.
5) Simplify phrasing and be direct about your ideas.
6) Organize your thoughts before starting to write.
7) When not writing dialogue, paragraphs must be at least three sentences long.
8) Sentences in a paragraph should be organized around a single subject.
9) Avoid starting a sentence with a conjunction.
10) Avoid contractions.
11) Omit unnecessary words.
12) Assess evidence, not subjective reaction.